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Vikings: Valhalla's Sam Corlett And Leo Suter Reveal How They Developed Their Historical Characters - Exclusive

The historical drama "Vikings: Valhalla" takes place almost a millennium in the past, and while the records about that period aren't perfect, many of the characters will be familiar to history buffs. Sam Corlett and Leo Suter play two of them. Today, we know Leif Eriksson as the man who discovered North America, but Corlett portrays the character before the adventure that led him there. In the show, Leif is a skilled sailor, an impressive fighter, and a clever tactician, yet bristles against comparisons to his father Erik the Red.

Likewise, although Harald is now remembered as an eleventh century king of Norway, Suter's character has yet to claim the throne. Instead, he's a charismatic prince who champions the Vikings while still doing what he can to fulfill his lofty ambitions.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Corlett and Suter talked about the research they did to prepare for their roles in "Vikings: Valhalla" and the perspectives that enabled them to embody such famous figures without feeling too beholden to history.

A historical but 'very human' story

Both Corlett and Suter said that they hit the books as part of their process for developing their "Valhalla" characters, with Corlett even giving a shout out to his high school history teacher. "For myself, it was very important to go back to the sagas and brush up on my history," Corlett explained. "I remember learning about it in high school ... sitting in Mr. Gill's history class, learning about Leif Erikson and Erik the Red. I dived into the books."

Suter shared Corlett's passion for learning the history of the show's time period. "I really enjoy the part of the job, when you're doing a historical show," Suter noted, "to dive into a world that you otherwise might not know so much about. I really looked at the histories of those kings."

The two found other ways to bring their characters to life. "Ultimately, I loved stripping it back and going to, 'What are the similarities that I have with Leif, and where can I impart my experience of being a human in this world, and where can he impart his experience on me?'" Corlett confessed. "I think there's a nice meeting when it comes to an actor and a character. Then, it was about telling a very human story about someone who's trying to do their best for the people that they love.

Meanwhile, Suter found freedom in the fact that little is known about Harald's early life. "One of the fun things is that Harald Hardrada was actually around a little bit later," he revealed, "so we've got some poetic license, and there's a freedom with that, which is quite cool, because this is an origin story, and I think most people know Harald Hardrada for the end of his life and how he died at Stamford Bridge in 1066. We don't actually know the story of how he got there, and to be able to dive into that and explore it has been very fun."

The eight-episode first season of "Vikings: Valhalla" is now streaming on Netflix.